Water Droplets on Cannabis Leaf

Monitoring Water Activity Levels in Cannabis - What You Need to Know

Water Droplets on Cannabis Leaf

Water Activity in Cannabis Guide

What is water activity in cannabis, and why do you need to keep an eye on it? Monitoring water activity on-site is one of the best benefits of investing in in-house cannabis testing, and if you master this measurement, you’ll never deal with mold or other microbes again. In this guide, learn what water activity is in cannabis, and find out how to measure cannabis water activity using in-house testing equipment.

1. What is water activity in cannabis?

Water activity is a measurement of how much water is present in cannabis plant matter. While similar, water activity is a different measurement than moisture analysis, and it’s also different from water content.

We’ll spare you the scientific explanation of water activity and suffice by saying it’s an index for measuring the moisture condition of a product. Most foods have a water activity above 0.95 and that will provide sufficient moisture to support the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and mold.

Cannabis cultivators generally consider water activity to be a better analytic to determine the potential microbial content of a cannabis plant than moisture content. Testing for water activity early and often is certainly a more effective way to prevent mold than simply testing for common mycotoxin strains before a finished cannabis product is approved for sale.

2. What is water activity testing?

Water activity testing is when you test the water activity of a sample substance. Most cannabis analytics laboratories are equipped to perform water activity testing, and the GemmaCert Pro now makes it easy for anyone, anywhere to determine the water activity of a cannabis sample.

Most water activity tests work by placing a sample in a sealed container. Then, the vapor pressure of the sample and the surrounding atmosphere reaches equilibrium, and the testing device reads the humidity of the air in the sealed container to determine the water activity of the sample.

3. Why is water activity analysis in cannabis important?

Mold and other microorganisms can only thrive in cannabis in wet conditions. Generally, water activity in cannabis higher than 0.65 can lead to microorganism growth. By testing the water content of your cannabis at multiple stages in the drying, curing, and packaging process, you can ensure conditions in your buds never get wet enough to encourage microorganism growth.

4. Moisture analysis vs. water activity: Which is better?

Both moisture analysis and water activity are measurements of how much water is in a substance. Moisture analysis is a simple act of measuring the percentage of a substance water makes up. Water activity, on the other hand, is a much more subtle measurement that tells you how the water in a substance will interact with other substances—such as microorganisms.

From the perspective of preventing microorganism growth, therefore, water activity is the superior measurement. Moisture analysis will get you halfway there, but it doesn’t tell you anything about how the water content in a substance will interact with its environment.

5. What is the difference between water activity and water content?

Water activity is the measurement of how the water in a substance interacts with its environment, and water content is a much simpler measurement of how much of a substance water makes up. In the context of cannabis cultivation, water activity is a more useful measurement since it serves as a more accurate predictor of microbial presence than measuring the mere water content of your buds.

6. Can water testing analysis in cannabis identify microbial contamination?

Yes, water analysis testing is one of the best methods at a grower’s disposal to identify the presence of microbial contamination before it becomes a threat to yield. More accurate and informative than either moisture analysis or measuring water content, water analysis gives a grower a dynamic snapshot of how the water in their cannabis is interacting with its environment in the here and now, allowing you to take the action you need to take to protect your grow.

7. What is the range of water activity in cannabis?

Depending on its age and how it was handled, cannabis can land in many places on the water activity spectrum. Cannabis is only safe to store and transport, however, when it has a water activity level between 0.55 and 0.65.

If the water activity of cannabis is above this range, it will become highly susceptible to microbial contamination. Water activity in cannabis below this threshold, however, will result in dry buds with brittle trichomes2 that are easily destroyed.

8. What moisture level should cannabis be?

Water activity aside, it’s a well-known fact that the moisture content of dried and ready-to-smoke cannabis flower should be around 10-12%3. Moisture level is another analytic any responsible grower should keep track of, but when it comes to preventing microbial contamination, water activity is still much more important to monitor than the percentage of moisture in your buds.

9. What is considered a high water activity level in cannabis?

Water activity in cannabis is considered to be in the high range whenever it measures above 0.60. Cannabis remains in acceptable water activity parameters up until readings of 0.65, however, at which point the water activity in cannabis is considered to be too high. Steps should then be taken to prevent water activity above this threshold or else microorganism contamination may take place.

10. What is the low end of the water activity range in cannabis?

Dried and cured cannabis products that read below 0.55 in terms of water activity are in danger of drying too quickly or experiencing terpene degradation. Readings at or near 0.55 are acceptable, but if the water activity of your cannabis comes in at 0.50 or lower, you should take steps to rehydrate your cannabis to compensate.

11. How is testing for water activity in cannabis conducted?

You can test the water activity in a cannabis sample using a variety of different types of equipment. These days, it isn’t necessary to invest in bulky industrial equipment just to find out the water activity levels in your weed. Small, portable testing devices like the GemmaCert Pro provide fast, accurate water activity measurements without needing to take samples to the lab or bring all the lab’s equipment to your facility.

12. How do you calculate water activity?

If we want to get technical, the actual equation for determining water activity is equilibrium relative humidity divided by 100 or aw = ERH/100. You don’t need to know all of this, though, since cannabis testing devices with water activity functionality perform all these calculations automatically. Generally, only regulatory agencies like the FDA4 keep track of how to measure water activity manually anymore.

13. How do you perform in-house water activity cannabis testing?

With modern cannabis testing devices, performing in-house water activity testing for your cannabis products is easy. Simply connect the testing device to its mobile or desktop app, and select water activity as the measurement you’d like to obtain. Recent technology has made water activity testing much more accurate and compact, and the learning curve to become an expert at this form of cannabis testing has also lowered significantly.

14. Does a hemp water activity lab test work the same as a test for THC weed?

Yes, you measure water activity in hemp samples in exactly the same way as you measure water activity in high-THC weed. The dominant cannabinoid in a cannabis sample has no impact on the method used to test its water activity—simply place the sample in the testing chamber, and select water activity as the measurement you’d like to obtain.

15. How do you read a cannabis water activity lab test report?

With modern cannabis testing technology, determining the water activity results for a cannabis sample you tested is generally relatively straightforward. Portable cannabis testing devices like the GemmaCert Pro, for instance, provide a clearly segmented section for water activity in their test results—as long as you select water activity as a parameter you want to test ahead of time.

Remember that water activity will be represented as a decimal, not a percentage. Once again, the water activity window you’re going for in cannabis is 0.55-0.65.

Accurately analyzing cannabis water activity in-house is essential

The debate regarding how to properly test cannabis5 rages on across the country. While recognizing the necessity of testing for the presence of specific harmful microbes, regulatory agencies are also starting to respect the ability of water analysis to prevent microbial infection in the first place.

As a cannabis producer, the last thing you want is to get your products all ready for production only to learn they’re contaminated when you send them to the lab. By testing for water activity in house, not only can you avoid nasty surprises, but you’ll also have a much better shot of keeping your buds completely clean until they’re ready for sale.

Sources

1. Carter, B. P. (2020, November 11). The What, How, and Why of Water Activity in Cannabis. Cannabis Science Tech. https://www.cannabissciencetech.com/view/what-how-and-why-water-activity-cannabis

2. Livingston, S. J., Quilichini, T. D., Booth, J. K., Wong, D. C. J., Rensing, K. H., Laflamme‐Yonkman, J., Castellarin, S. D., Bohlmann, J., Page, J. E., & Samuels, A. L. (2019). Cannabis glandular trichomes alter morphology and metabolite content during flower maturation. The Plant Journal, 101(1), 37–56. https://doi.org/10.1111/tpj.14516

3. Leafly. (2021, February 26). What is moisture content? | Cannabis Glossary. https://www.leafly.com/learn/cannabis-glossary/moisture-content

4. Office of Regulatory Affairs. (2014, August 27). Water Activity (aw) in Foods. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/inspections-compliance-enforcement-and-criminal-investigations/inspection-technical-guides/water-activity-aw-foods

5. Seltenrich, N. (2019). Cannabis Contaminants: Regulating Solvents, Microbes, and Metals in Legal Weed. Environmental Health Perspectives, 127(8), 082001. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp5785


cannabis plant

The Lesser Known Compounds of Cannabis

cannabis plant

The cannabis plant has hundreds of compounds, and over a hundred of those are classified as cannabinoids. While we’ve discussed many of them in this blog previously, in this article, we’ll break down a few of the lesser-known ones and take a quick look and their effects and potential benefits.

Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THC-A)

The precursor to the more famous compound THC, THC-A, is found in the raw or unprocessed cannabis plant. As opposed to its later form THC-A is non-psychoactive. When heated in a process known as decarboxylation, chemical reactions transform the compound into the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, the effects of which include relaxation, euphoria, and pain relief. THC has even been known to show medical use as a pain-killer and anti-inflammatory. THC-A itself has numerous benefits, including as an anti-inflammatory and as a neuro-protectant.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

THCV has a similar molecular structure and psychoactive properties to THC but does not produce the same effects. THCV has been used as an appetite suppressant to reduce anxiety, regulate blood sugar levels, and stimulate bone growth. Additionally, THCV has been known to improve motor control, relieve tremors, and lessen brain lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Although less common in a majority of strains, THCV is found most abundantly in African Sativas.

Cannabinol (CBN)

CBN is the naturally occurring product produced when THC is exposed to air. Cannabis left to dry in the open air contains higher concentrations of CBN, which is why most users store their cannabis in airtight containers. CBN is an extremely mild psychoactive, especially when compared to THC, and is usually found in low concentrations of below 1%. It is mainly used to treat sleep issues such as insomnia and has similar effects to pharmaceutical sedatives. It has also been known as a pain-killer and anti-inflammatory.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

CBG is non-psychoactive but serves as the foundation for psychoactive compounds such as THC and CBD. It begins to develop in early stages of flower development and is found in lower quantities as the plant matures. Higher CBG content has been found to minimize the negative side-effects of THC for many users. In addition, it has been known to have antibiotic and anti-fungal effects, pain-relieving properties, and the potential to treat tumors.

Cannabichromene (CBC)

Like CBG, CBC is non-psychoactive and is the second most common cannabinoid in cannabis after THC. Its properties include anti-tumor effects, mild anti-fungal effects, and antibacterial effects. Additionally can be used as an anti-depressant or to reduce inflammation in the intestinal tract. Studies also show that it may be used to encourage the growth of new brain cells. While it can be used for pain relief, its pain-relieving effects are mild, especially compared to other cannabinoids.

In Conclusion

Although these compounds exist in the shadow of the better-known THC and CBD, each has unique benefits. While these benefits have made considerable contributions to science and medicine, most scientists agree that each compound’s individual strength can’t match up to the entourage effect created by using the whole plant.


hand is holding a test tube of cannabis oil

Cannabis and Quality Control- Recreational vs. Medical

hand is holding a test tube of cannabis oil

As the cannabis industry continues to find its footing in the legitimate marketplace, new regulations and requirements are continuously being added. Safety and quality have not always been top priorities throughout the industry’s checkered history, but in its battle for legitimacy, producers, growers, and retailers will have to not only meet legal quality and safety demands but surpass them.

The History

Throughout its history as an illicit substance, cannabis went unregulated. As a result, consumers had no way of ascertaining the quality and purity of the product and were continually taking risks or relying on trusted sellers and producers.

But with legalization comes regulation, and as each state is still responsible for its own safety regulations, the quality requirements on cannabis growers vary. The same applies between countries legalizing cannabis around the globe. In addition, as cannabis evolves into a mainstream consumer product, businesses are pressured to adopt standardized safety methods, and provide accurate labels and back claims, especially therapeutic ones, with scientific evidence. The demand for quality compliance is only expected to increase over the coming years. 

Medical Cannabis

To date, the FDA has not approved a marketing application for cannabis for the treatment of any disease or condition. It has, however, approved one cannabis-derived drug product: Epidiolex (cannabidiol). This is only available with a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider. Importantly, the FDA has not approved any other cannabis, cannabis-derived, or cannabidiol (CBD) products currently available on the market.

For more cannabis applications to be approved for the treatment of diseases or conditions, companies must invest in scientific research to prove safety and efficacy. This, of course, involves significant investments which few companies can afford, long periods of times which many investors shy away from, and the chances for success are low. 

Despite the lack of federal approval, medical cannabis products are available in many countries and in 36 U.S. states. The companies behind these products must adhere to the regulatory requirements in their jurisdictions, which almost always requires them to test their products before they go to market. They need to make sure they are safe for human consumption, free of heavy metals, toxins, fertilizers, microbes, or fungi that can pose severe health risks to patients. Consumers also expect that the labels on these products, specifically related to the potency levels, are accurate. Potency is critical for ensuring safety and achieving the desired effect. 

Mandatory regulatory compliance testing needs to be carried out offsite, based on sampling, by a third-party certified lab. Companies, however, can boost their quality and reduce the risk of non-compliance by adopting in-house testing protocols. This is common practice in the pharmaceutical industry. Therefore, demand for in-house testing solutions for quality assurance is expected to grow significantly over the coming years. 

Recreational Cannabis

Recreational cannabis is still far less regulated than medical cannabis. Many pundits, however, recommend that producers follow the organization’s guidelines for regular food and beverage companies to ensure that a high standard of quality is maintained.

It is in the best interest of the industry stakeholders to maintain the highest possible levels of quality and safety to strengthen the industry’s reputation and cement cannabis as a mainstream consumer product. The smart companies will invest in testing, including in-house means, to make sure their products are consistently safe, and their labels are accurate. This will contribute to their efforts to build strong and valuable brands, differentiating themselves from those players delivering low-quality products for short-term profit.  

Is Lab Testing Enough?

Lab testing for quality isn’t federally standardized for both medical and recreational cannabis. This means that labs are using different protocols and adhering to varying standards. This often means that companies purchasing cannabis as a raw material for their production cannot take the accuracy of certificates of analysis for granted.  They would be wise to conduct their own in-house testing to ensure that the delivered product complies with the specification they need and paid for.  


CBG compound illustration overlaid cannabis plant

What Consumers Need To Know About Cannabigerol (CBG)

CBG compound illustration overlaid cannabis plant

Up until recently, most of the cannabis market has been content to focus on the two primary compounds of the plant –THC, and CBD. But lately smaller, and lesser-known compounds are having their time in the spotlight, and this shifting focus opens up an opportunity for new vistas of cannabis use. One compound in particular is taking the community by storm – CBG.

What Is CBG?

CBG or בannabigerol is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It is commonly known as the “mother of all cannabinoids,” as many other cannabinoids are derivatives of cannabigerol acid (CBGA), the acidic form of CBG. Although found in smaller quantities compared to other cannabinoids, the compound is still very much in demand.

With most plant strains only containing approximately 1% of CBG, consumer products derived from the compound are both scarce and generally expensive. As scientists learn more about the potential benefits of the compound, its popularity continues to grow.

Where Does CBG Come From?

The compound is generally derived from the cannabis plants still in the early stages of growth, as it contains higher amounts of CBG before it is fully developed. The amount of CBG in the plant also varies by strain. Some strains such as Super Glue CBG, White CBG, and Jack Frost CBG contain higher amounts of CBG than other strains and are cultivated specifically for their high CBG percentage.

THC and CBG both start as the acidic form of CBG, CBGA. This is why as the plant develops, its CBG content lowers and begins to develop into other compounds. By the time the plant has fully developed, most CBG has evolved into THC and CBD.

What are the Effects of CBG?

CBG, like the majority of cannabis compounds, is processed by the body’s endocannabinoid system. These are the molecules and receptors responsible for maintaining the body’s optimal state in any external environment. Once it enters the body, CBG mimics the effects of endocannabinoids, a natural compound produced by the body.

Like CBD, CBG has been proven as an effective painkiller without creating the highs associated with THC. Additional research has shown that CBG can have other therapeutic effects, but human studies on the effects of CBG are still rare and more research needs to be done before conclusions are drawn.

Some of the beneficial effects CBG has had in preliminary studies include alleviating diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, glaucoma, and Huntington’s disease. The compound has also been shown to have antibacterial properties and may help fight cancer cells by blocking the receptors in the body that lead to cancer cell growth.

How Can I Get CBG?

CBG is the new kid on the cannabis compound block. While it has the potential to provide many of the same benefits as THC and CBD without the drawbacks and some benefits that are uniquely its own, more studies are needed to confirm the effects of this unique compound. 

For those who already want to begin experiencing its benefits, CBG is available to consumers, most commonly in oil-based products. Unfortunately, these oils are still expensive, but you can still experience some of the benefits of CBG from broad-spectrum CBD oils, which generally contain trace amounts of the compound


Scientist / researcher team conducting scientific research in science lab.

How to Interpret Your Results from a Cannabis Testing Lab

Scientist / researcher team conducting scientific research in science lab.

Translating a highly technical certificate of analysis can be a challenge for cannabis dispensaries and cultivation facilities. 

A COA is a Certificate of Analysis, an official document required to show your compliance with the federal government’s regulatory laws regarding THC levels in hemp and cannabis products. Your COA should demonstrate your adherence to Farm Bill regulations, which states that hemp should contain no more than 0.3% THC.

The information gleaned from cannabis lab testing results can set your dispensary or cultivation enterprise on the path to success and legitimacy. While we’re all aware that a Certificate of Analysis (COA) is mandatory to operate in the industry, understanding your lab test results can be a hazy proposition.

What is a Certificate of Analysis (COA)?

The safety and efficacy of cannabis are essential for growth in the industry. A COA demonstrates the potency and purity of your cannabis product, certified by a licensed analytical testing lab. The lab analyses cannabinoid levels and the bud’s terpene profile and ensures the product is safe for consumption by testing for contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, bacteria, mold, or microbes.

The COA is essentially your “test results,” and the document proves your cannabis product has been tested and is safe for consumption. While COA requirements vary from state to state, two types of tests generally determine cannabis potency and purity: Gas chromatography and high-performance liquid chromatography. No matter which tests they run, all labs should be able to test for strength and impurities. 

It’s important to remember that the seasoned cannabis consumer will not buy your product if it doesn’t have a COA available. An inability to produce the document essentially says the product is untested and potentially unsafe. Cannabis consumers are discerning shoppers—they will not buy your product if it’s in the least bit shady. 

That’s why acquiring a COA test is crucial for cannabis dispensaries and cultivation facilities. So, how do you get a COA?

How Do You Get A Certificate of Analysis?

An accredited laboratory administers an official COA. Finding one in your area is as simple as a Google search. First, locate a laboratory in your state and confirm they are fully licensed and accredited, or select from the list featured in our recent blog

How To Read A Certificate of Analysis

Your first glance at a COA can be overwhelming, with scientific abbreviations, decimals, and percentages. But when you break it into bite-sized chunks of information, the COA becomes more digestible and begins to make a lot more sense.

What To Look For:

The header of your COA contains most of the details that help you trust the legitimacy of the data. Start at the top of the document and keep an eye out for this basic information:

  • Who carried out the analysis: This should be an accredited laboratory, not a manufacturer or other company
  • When the test was held: Report Date or Batch Date
  • Who requested the test: Be sure these are, in fact, your results
  • Locate your certificate ID: Included with every COA, this ID is necessary to identify the test in case of any disputed results. 

Here’s a line-by-line example of some of the basic information you’re most likely to see in the header of your COA:

  • Sample Name: Name of the sample provided by the client
  • Batch ID: Used for internal tracking
  • Reported: The date the COA was reported to the client
  • Type: Refers to the matrix of the provided sample, either plant, concentrate, solution, or unit
  • Test: Lists the types of tests performed; potency, terpenes, etc.
  • Test ID: The unique identifier for your sample

Actual Test Information: How To Read The Results

Following the header, most third-party labs will present a section containing the types of tests performed. This can be the most essential part of the entire document (besides the approval itself). This section describes the types of tests performed, including:

Cannabinoid Potency

Represented in a donut chart, bar chart, or simply in columns, the cannabinoid data lists the percentages of the major and minor cannabinoids, such as THC, CBD, CBN, and other cannabinoids. For example, for hemp-based products, the amount of THC should be 0.3% or below. 

Terpene Profile Analysis

Terpenes are the chemicals that give plants, like hemp, their flavors, and aromas. Along with potency, the COA will display the terpene profile in a summary that lists the specific terpenes and their levels in percentages and mg/ml. 

Containment Testing

Cannabis contaminants range from pesticides to heavy metals to mold. It’s important to remember that notching a passing grade in this department doesn’t necessarily mean a product is completely devoid of contaminants—instead, it means the product contains a safe limit as determined by state or county guidelines.

Essential Terms & Abbreviations On Cannabis Test Results

  • LOQ: The Limit of Quantitation is the lowest level a lab can accurately quantitate (or count) for each reported analyte. The LOQ varies from sample to sample based on the weight and the dilution factor used for testing.
  • LOD: The Limit of Detection refers to the specific detection level the laboratory equipment can recognize.
  • LOB: The Limit of Blank refers to the amount of a substance present in a blank sample being tested.
  • Result (%): Displays the analyte reported in a percentage format.
  • Result (mg/g): Displays the analyte reported in a milligram per gram amount.
  • Result (mg/mL): When provided the density of the sample, labs can display results in milligrams per milliliter.
  • Conc.: The exact concentration that is in the total oil or product.
  • ND: Stands for Non-Detectable.
  • PPM: Stands for Parts Per Million and describes the concentration of something. 
  • Full Spectrum: An extract containing THC up to the legal limit of 0.3%. 
  • Broad Spectrum: An extract that is THC-free or contains Non-Detectable levels of THC.
  • Isolate: A synthetic powder that is cut down to be 99%+ purity.

Find out how GemmaCert products can help you conduct in-house potency tests!


Cannabis growing outside at sunset evening

Study Sheds New Light on the Origin of Cannabis sativa

Cannabis growing outside at sunset evening

Have you ever wondered where your cannabis comes from? Not where it was bought, or even where it was grown, but where and when the plant was initially domesticated and its properties recognized. The origin of the cannabis plant has been discussed by scientists for years. Until recently, most botanists believed that the cannabis Sativa plant was first domesticated in Central Asia, but a recent study published by the Science Advances journal suggests a more likely source in East Asia.

The Origin of Cannabis

The study revealed that it is likely that all currently existing strains and varieties of the plant originate from an “ancestral gene pool” represented by wild and cultivated varieties growing in China today. Data from the study indicates that the plant was primarily grown as a “multipurpose crop” approximately 12,000 years ago in the early Neolithic period. The plant was likely valued for its use as fiber and its medicinal benefits. This seems to contradict the widely held assumption that early humans were only interested in cultivating plants as a food resource and calls into question what societies of the time prioritized.

Farmers began cultivating and breeding the plant for its mind-altering properties around 4,000 years ago. According to the study, this was around the time that cannabis began to spread into the Middle East and Europe.

Early Records

A separate study conducted in 2016 holds that the earliest records of cannabis were primarily from Japan and China. Despite this study, most botanists believed it was likely first domesticated in eastern Central Asia, where wild plant species are prevalent. Information gathered by the more recent study seems to support the original study, with genetic sequencing suggesting that the species originates from a single domestic plant grown in East Asia. In addition, archeological evidence such as pottery lends further evidence to this claim, with artifacts from around this period referencing cannabis found in present-day Japan, China, and Taiwan.

What The Experts Say

Academics have expressed their skepticism around the conclusions drawn by the study, particularly those that claim the plant was domesticated for use as a drug or fiber during the Neolithic period 12,000 years ago. However, archeological evidence only indicates the consistent presence of cannabis for those purposes from around 7,500 years ago.

 While not dismissing the study’s findings outright, academics have expressed their desire for a more extensive study to be conducted with a larger sampling.

How the Study Took Place

The study was primarily based on extracting and sequencing genomic DNA from 82 samples of either seeds or leaves gathered from around the world. The samples were made up of various strains, including those grown for fiber production and those bred in Europe and North America to produce high amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most potent mood-altering compound in the plant.

The results from the sequenced data were downloaded and analyzed, in addition to sequencing data from 28 other samples. The results from the wild varieties analyzed revealed that these varieties were “historical escapes from domesticated forms” and that both cultivated and wild existing strains in China were their closest descendants of the ancestral gene pool.

In Conclusion

Although we may never conclude the search for the origin of the modern cannabis plant, each study raises new and fascinating questions and allows us to understand its origin and evolution better. Cultivators can use the information gathered from studies to continue developing the cannabis plant to meet modern requirements and standards to better cater to the growing cannabis market.


Dog taking essential oil from dropper. Nutritional supplements, calming products, cbd or thd oils for pets

Pet CBD May Not be as Safe as We Thought

Dog taking essential oil from dropper. Nutritional supplements, calming products, cbd or thd oils for pets

As discussed in a previous article, using CBD products to treat pets is growing in popularity. But it may not be as safe as many owners believe. Recent research has shown that CBD products marketed to pets are often labeled inaccurately, and consumers mistake unregulated products for reputably sourced brands.

In early July, the FDA Center for Veterinary medicine sent out its annual tweet warning pet owners to beware of unregulated CBD products. This time of year sees pet sales rise as dog owners attempt to reduce firework-related anxiety, and the FDA’s warning is an attempt to get pet owners to be more aware of what they are giving their pets.

Inaccurate Labelling

Although all cannabis products approved by the FDA are heavily regulated, pet products can sometimes fall through the cracks. Inaccurate labeling is already a huge issue the cannabis industry faces. A recent study done by Leafreport uncovered that 56% of the pet CBD products sampled were wrongly labeled. The study consisted of a sampling of 55 pet CBD products which were tested independently in laboratories. Out of the original samples, 31 were inaccurately labeled, and the amount of CBD actually contained in the product was misrepresented.  Some products contained minute levels of CBD, much lower than indicated on the label, which may raise doubts of the product’s efficacy (especially when administered to heavier pets). 

How to Protect Your Pet

This data is alarming for pet owners looking to provide their pets with relief. So how can pet owners ensure that the product they are giving their pet is both reputably sourced and effective?

The first thing you should do is consult your licensed veterinarian. Once you have decided to provide CBD to your pet, then do your homework. Look for brands that provide certificates of analysis showing precisely what is in their product and how much is in it. Additionally, pet owners should only buy products for their pets sold in reputable stores such as state-regulated dispensaries or CBD stores that investigate their vendors and prioritize their consumer’s safety.

The Danger to Pets

When choosing products for your pets, use the same caution you would when getting products for yourself. Researching the company’s history and reputation is only the first step. The second step is educating yourself on the effects of cannabis products’ compounds on your pets.

Different animals may be affected differently by CBD, and pets react differently to humans. For example, the contaminants found in unregulated products such as microbial products, toxins, heavy metals, and pesticides often affect animals more severely than humans. Additionally, research has shown that dogs are susceptible to THC and so extra caution should be exercised when ensuring that any products you give your dog are THC-free.

Testing is the Only Guarantee

With a scourge of inaccurate labels and the risk of analysis certificates being forged or inaccurate, consumers are reluctant to place blind trust in labels or retailers.  Therefore, companies producing and marketing CBD products for pets should adopt comprehensive in-house testing protocols, such as those enabled by GemmaCert, to ensure accurate labels on products which are safe and effective. 


Cannabis Sativa blossom stored in a glass jar.

Five Easy Ways Cannabis Brands Can Boost Customer Loyalty

Cannabis Sativa blossom stored in a glass jar.

Cannabis retailers interested in long-term success must look for ways to improve customer satisfaction and increase loyalty. 

Loyalty programs and special offerings, along with a quality product and a friendly company culture, will ensure new customers become returning customers. Customer rewards and referral programs, in particular, are attractive marketing strategies for cannabis brands looking to break into this emerging market.

The cannabis industry is mainstream. After generations in the shadows, the industry is projected to light up profits to the tune of $90.4 billion by 2026. 

But, like any colossal business with high ambitions, brands in this newly minted industry must make significant marketing efforts to create new relationships while turning past purchasers into repeat customers. 

However, at the present moment, the cannabis industry does not have the freedom to utilize traditional advertising like other instantly recognizable industries. It’s true—even with more and more states legalizing cannabis every year, there’s still a harsh stigma attached to the plant. 

As a relatively new marketplace dogged by advertising constraints, the best way to succeed for cannabis dispensaries is to increase customer loyalty constantly. 

It’s a formula that eschews the difficulties surrounding traditional advertising and presents unique opportunities for customer retention in the cannabis industry. 

To help you get started, here are five ways cannabis brands can boost customer loyalty.

But first …

What Is Cannabis Customer Loyalty?

Customer loyalty is the same in the cannabis realm as it is in all other retail industry sectors. It’s all about developing an ongoing relationship between you and your customer. 

Motivated by emotion, your customer is encouraged to engage with you and repeatedly purchase from you rather than your competitors. Loyalty is the result of trust created through positive experiences at every point in the buyer’s journey

Here are some of the main characteristics of loyal cannabis customers:

  • Repeats purchases
  • Knows a lot about products
  • Interacts through a variety of channels
  • Sends others to you via word-of-mouth
  • Provides positive feedback

Cannabis customer loyalty sees individuals consciously choose your dispensary or purchase your products over others. 

It’s a decision they come to not on their own but with a gentle nudge from your strategy to boost loyalty. 

Now, onto the five steps! 

1. Loyalty Program

Reward repeat customers with special discounts, deals, and incentives when they frequent your shop. 

Loyalty programs typically involve having your customers sign up with a phone number or email address, which allows you to market to customers that already know you and have a connection to your products and services.

The better the discounts, deals, and incentives, the more likely your customers will come back for more and bring their friends. 

Successful dispensaries deploy various loyalty programs, all of which present a unique set of strategies for customer acquisition and retention. 

Examples of loyalty programs include:

  • Cash Back Points: With every dollar spent, a customer receives a set of points that they can redeem in-store when making their purchase.
  • Referral Programs: Rewards customers for spreading your company’s name among their network of friends.
  • Check-In Bonus: Customers earn bonuses every time they “check-in” at the dispensary, collecting rewards they can redeem at checkout. 
  • Loyalty Cards: The dispensary records a customer’s visit or purchase with a punch card or on the computer. Accruing loyalty points often leads to free merch or some other incentive.

2. Special Deals

Cannabis customer loyalty is built when you show an appreciation for your customer’s patronage. Nothing makes a customer feel more special than a deal on their favorite products. 

Offering specials boosts your customer’s experience, making their purchase a pleasant, memorable exchange. 

Create BOGOs (Buy-One-Get-One), daily deals, and conditional promotions. 

These and other strategies can draw in customers and increase sales figures. 

You can also offer free merchandise to customers who spend up to or over a certain dollar amount. This is not only a sweet deal for the customer, but it also gets your branding out on the street—it’s free advertising!

3. Quality Product

It all starts with cannabis. 

If your product doesn’t meet the standards of today’s cannabis consumers, your venture will flame out in a hurry. 

Growing and dispensing a quality cannabis product promotes trust and loyalty among your customer base. 

There are many other cannabis companies out there, with more cropping up every day—stay ahead of the pack with the best products in the area.

Ensure a top-notch product with quality control efforts. Know where your cannabis comes from and who cultivated it. Also, make sure you have comprehensive knowledge surrounding all aspects of cannabis. 

When you sound like an expert, your customers are more likely to trust you and your product. 

Here’s a pro tip: find out exactly what you’re growing and selling before you send your products to a third-party lab with our line of in-house cannabis testing solutions. Click here to learn more. 

4. Company Culture

Your company’s character can significantly influence customer loyalty. This is not only how you treat your customers and employees but also how you present your image. 

As stated earlier, there’s still a stigma attached to cannabis. 

The misconception that it’s an illegitimate business stops people from reaching into their wallets to purchase at your dispensary. 

The best way to confront this issue is to be open, honest, and knowledgeable. 

Every customer concern should be met with a serious answer by someone who knows the product inside and out. 

Get to know your customers and attempt to understand their problems on a personal level. Having a suitable bedside manner can go a long way in building trust and increasing loyalty. 

5. Marketing with Personalization

Customer loyalty in the cannabis industry is made possible through the human connections established between the dispensary and the consumer. 

Interacting with your customers in a way that feels personal and human is a time-honored way for brands to boost customer loyalty. This happens by going where your customers are and interacting with them in a way that feels natural.

The entire purchasing world exists on social media these days—and this includes customers who purchase cannabis from recreational and medicinal dispensaries. 

A social media presence is crucial in establishing a conversation with current customers and potential customers. It gets your product out there in a fun and interactive way while giving customers a window into your dispensary and the products you offer. 

Are you doing everything you can to boost customer loyalty? There’s a good chance you’re not. But we can help – get in touch today. 


Chemical scientists examine composition of hemp extract under microscope in chemical laboratory closeup.

Quality Control in Your Cannabis Grow: A Starter’s Guide

Chemical scientists examine composition of hemp extract under microscope in chemical laboratory closeup.

Professional cannabis cultivators must follow testing guidelines to maintain quality control and provide consistent products.

Cannabis is no longer a shadowy plant with a notoriously hazy history of misdirected criticism and outright criminalization. It’s now a major consumer product, rapidly budding in both the recreational and medicinal markets, driving a seismic economic boom to the tune of $90.4 billion by 2026.

With great success comes a hefty regulatory price to pay. As more states legalize cannabis and a growing number of consumers seek to partake in its many benefits, federal and state agencies are swooping in with a litany of rules and regulations to standardize quality control practices. 

And cannabis cultivators are charged with following these guidelines, even as the parameters continue to shift. Since the industry is relatively young, the standards for testing cannabis and hemp for cannabinoid potency, terpene levels, and possible impurities are constantly evolving. So what’s a professional grower to do? 

The best place to start is with the basics. Learning the bedrock ins and outs of cannabis testing gives you a strong foundation of knowledge and informs the success you’ll see in your growing endeavor. 

In-House Testing Is Within Reach For Professional Growers

External testing conducted by verified laboratories is crucial and required in many states, but in-house quality testing brings another layer of benefits to pro cultivators. Growers can utilize in-house testing to monitor overall plant development, measure cannabinoid levels, and ensure the safety and quality of raw materials. 

Cannabis and cannabis products can face many in-house tests, including screenings for harsh impurities like pesticides, herbicides, or heavy metals. There are also tests to detect molds and harmful bacteria and for more positive attributes such as flavor profiling. 

Perhaps the most common—and most sought-after—test results involve identifying the two lead cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), while measuring the potency of both compounds. Recreational and medicinal cannabis markets place a lot of importance on THC and CBD potency. It factors significantly into the effect of each dose and which sector of consumers the product will target once it hits the market. 

And thanks to advancements in technology and the burgeoning market of in-house testing, much of the quality control begins right in your growing operation.

Internal Quality Control For Cannabis

The first step to ensuring a high-quality product doesn’t even involve testing cannabis. Instead, it starts with a baseline of internal quality control efforts that oversee all testing procedures and equipment, as well as personnel. 

Equipment & Procedure Monitoring. Diagnostic checkups ensure all equipment runs smoothly when it matters most, while regular reviews of your testing procedure guard against any inefficiencies that could potentially slow your product’s appearance on the market. 

Personnel Monitoring. Proper staff supervision establishes a professional standard while testing cannabis samples. This involves initial training and follow-up performance reviews to avoid invalidated test results due to broken protocol. 

Once those pillars of quality control are in place, you can begin to test the actual quality of your cannabis product. 

How GemmaCert Can Help You Grow Quality Cannabis

As we mentioned earlier, state-mandated testing by third-party laboratories is unavoidable in the cannabis industry. Unfortunately, the lack of FDA oversight on such testing means these labs can be uneven in quality and often downright suspicious with a dubious track record. In-house testing gives you the power to take control and know the precise quality of your product before you deliver it into the hands of some unknown lab worker. 

But testing can be an expensive process. Some in-house testing units are priced at ridiculous heights, often ringing up totals in the $50,000-$100,000 range. That’s too much for any grower, no matter how professional. So to make in-house testing more accessible to professional growers, we developed an affordable solution that’s simple, reliable, and easy to use.

Our in-house testing products are explicitly built to be a precursor to the formal testing process, enabling you to test dry flower buds, trim, and crude extracts in a completely non-destructive manner—this means there’s no loss of product through grinding and homogenization.

 THC and CBD levels are measured accurately in both cannabis and hemp materials, so you know exactly what you’re sending off to the third-party lab. 

This is all in the name of improving your product and reaching an optimal level of quality and consistency—which inevitably boosts customer confidence and brand loyalty, leading to increased profitability in both the recreational and medicinal markets. 

It’s time to take the guesswork out of cannabis testing.


Teenage girl curled up on a couch

Marijuana Potency May Pose Risks to Young People

Teenage girl curled up on a couch

For several years, researchers and medical personnel have noticed a disturbing trend. More cases have been documented of teenagers and young adults in their early twenties experiencing severe psychiatric and physical symptoms attributed to cannabis use.

The Origin of the Condition

The phenomenon was first reported in the scientific literature in 2004 but only gained notoriety when doctors in Washington and Colorado, two of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, began reporting an increase of cases. In the years that followed, doctors began expressing their concerns over the health risks the increasing potency of marijuana may pose young users.

Doctors have officially termed the condition “cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.” However, it is better known among medical professionals by the informal term “scromiting”- a combination of the words screaming and vomiting, which are two of the most common symptoms associated with the condition.

Doctors in Colorado, in particular, have noticed the increasing frequency of cases, with one medical center reporting only five cases in 2009, but by 2018 that number had risen to over 120. In addition, two other emergency rooms in the state reported that cases of the condition had doubled shortly after legalization.

The increasing influx of cases puts a strain on hospitals and requires the use of many hospital resources. In addition, patients suffering from uncontrollable vomiting must often take a variety of diagnostic tests to rule out any other disease or injury they may potentially suffer from.

What We Know

Even though humans have been ingesting cannabis for thousands of years, very little is known about cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. Although several studies were conducted, the findings were inconclusive.

Despite this, the studies did find that 97 percent of patients suffering from the condition reported using marijuana at least once a week. In addition, about 75 percent said they had regularly consumed cannabis for over a year. From the research currently available to them, doctors feel safe in assuming that the condition is caused by chronic use of, particularly potent cannabis.

It is still unknown what causes some patients to develop the syndrome while others don’t. What is known is that while symptoms can be managed with hot baths or showers, episodes of vomiting, screaming, and psychiatric outbursts often continue until marijuana use is stopped entirely.

How Potency Ties in

Doctors have noted that as marijuana becomes increasingly potent, cases increase. Industry experts state that the cannabis of 20 years ago was not the cannabis of today. Twenty years ago, cannabis had levels of THC ranging around 2% or 3%, but since then potency levels have gradually risen to double figures. A study conducted in 2019 indicated that ingesting cannabis with THC levels of over 10% increases the chances of a psychotic episode.

Is it Possible to Avoid the Risk?

With new potential dangers of extremely potent cannabis coming to light, how can we ensure young cannabis users remain safe and still gain the many benefits associated with cannabis? Potency testing has become essential to guarantee that only safe products make their way to young consumers and avoid the many risks of cannabis with high levels of THC.